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The Vietnam collector's market is just as crowded with fakes as the IIIrd Reich market. How can you tell the difference? Gil Burkett has created a CD called Fakes and Reproductions of the Vietnam War with 220 pages, 387 b/w photographs in over 400 selected objects. Volume 1 focuses on fake cloth insignia that have been made by US vendors. It is a work based on experience & effort and not simply opinion. The CD is a full copy of the book allowing individual pages to be printed if desired. The files can be read straight from the CD or from your hardrive (600MB). If you're a Vietnam militaria collector or a patch collector, this book will SAVE YOU MONEY!! Price: $16 plus shipping of $4.00 via US Priority Mail. Money orders preferred. Order directly from the author at the address below...

Note: This is currently out of production until I get a chance to revise both Volume I and II. My apologies. But please read on for information about Vietnam era fakes and reproductions!

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  • 8 months later...

I want to thank my good friends at Wartime Collectibles for the introduction. I feel guilty now for not joining this forum sooner.


I started this little "project" in 1994. At the time there was a publication called the Vietnam Insignia Collector's Newsletter. While focused on genuine insignia and badges, editor Clem Kelly included a page called "Sniping at the Fakers". Even then there were no shortage of reproductions popping up on the market, from both US and foreign manufacturers. Every month he seemed to come up with something new. As it turns out, Vietnam era fakes have been with us almost since the end of the war in the 1970's.


At the time, I was a sorta kinda dealer. I noticed that my sales of Vietnam items were slow. Too many people came up to my tables and said "I'm sorry, I just don't want to get burned by a fake." When I brought up the topic with dealers and collectors the response was "Well everyone knows they are out there." But few people could tell you exactly what to look for.


I suggested to Clem he should start a book on the subject. He turned the project back on me, probably knowing what would be involved.


As of this date, I have identified over 4,000 known fakes in the market. Truth be told, I have actually lost count. They come from US repro artists, but also from Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, India, Japan and other places where inexpensive embroidery is available.


A major problem with patches and badges from this period is that there was a complete lack of standardization. This makes it easy for repro artists to slip their items in and call it a "rare variation."


I share this not to discourage anyone from collecting Vietnam items, but to encourage people to read up and study the field before spending serious money. Some of these reproductions are priced at $25, $35, $65, $125 or higher. But reference books are available for a fraction of the price of even a single patch.


Bob Chatt of Vintage Productions has go on-line stating that patches made during the Vietnam period feature some of the finest craftsmanship and most colorful designs you will ever find. And not all Vietnam era items are priced through the roof. I have seen orginal period items sell on eBay for $15... less than the price of the reproductions. You just have to know what you are looking for.


Since this thread has been started, I think I will come back from time to time to provide some examples of what to provide. This is going to take awhile, as my files are a bit disorganized.


As the origin of some of these patches is a bit unclear, I borrowed a trick from NATO when they nicknamed unknown Soviet aircraft. You can use my naming system or come up with your own.


To close, my overall philosophy is that the collector does not have to memorize all of the fakes that are out there. Rather learn how they are constructed, the materials and stitching that are used, and the common flaws. Once you learn how to spot these, you will avoid 95% of the fakes out there.


One last thought... I think there is a place for reproductions that are identified and priced as such. I had more than one veteran come to my sales table that wanted a copy of his unit patch to put on his jacket or baseball cap. Very few wanted to pay collector's prices just to show it off to the grandkids. They were quite content with a $5 repro as long as it matched the design. However, pricing copies and reproductions as originals is outright fraud and should be treated as such.


Good luck in your collecting!

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For Starters: 1st Cav Sniper patch, From Korea Type 1: Paper Back series.


These were apparently part of a very wide range of patches produced specifically

to fool collectors (as opposed to oher patches made in Korea for troops or

vets.) One reason to suppose that these were made in Korea is the presence of GI

material combined with Asian embroidery techniques. The use of US post Vietnam

camouflage cloth, OD cotton fatigue material and OD thread indicate that the

shop that made these was located where such items were readily available. The

low quality brown paper used as backing on most of these patches could be common

newsprint, but it is also similar to the packing material commonly used to

protect household goods shipped to US bases.


Many of the patches in this group are based on the 1st Cav design, often made of a very shiny synthetic material. Some collectors refer to these as the 1st Cav “Satin” series. Elegant as they are, it is doubtful if they would have stood up to field use. These are narrow in width (80-85 mm), giving them a slightly elongated appearance. They have been seen in large batches at militaria shows in the South and Central US since the late 1980's and early 1990's.


This example is done on a rayon like shiny synthetic base material with felt being used for the applique work. The horse head is outlined with a border stitch, as is the cross band. The rifle is sewing machine stitched.


Similar patches have also been seen from the same source with a light cloth backing.



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Around 1988, a series of hard to find MEDTC patches came into the market that were bright, colorful, and obviously Asian made. Not surprisingly,

this was after these designs were described both in the VICN and Jim McDuff’s book. The primary thread orientation seems to be vertical. The threads

tend to be very dense and thickly layered, almost like a carpet.


This page: identified by some collectors as the unit patch for the USAF element of the MEDTC mission, this reproduction features a very rich long straight woven

background. It is also misshapen: either the patch is leaning towards the right, or the temple is leaning to the left. The thread has a very nice sheen to it, and may well be a silk blend.


On the backside, the dense pattern is repeated with an intermittent white

reverse thread. There are a couple of long threads, but the excess has been

kept to a minimum. The back has a rougher finish, possibly due to a white

glue used to secure the threads. Somewhere along the line, a collector

has marked this with capital “R”, used by some to designate a reproduction.

Still, as far as reproductions go, this one is quite striking and could be

easily accepted among USAF collectors as period made.



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This is, without a doubt, the most convincing series to come out of Pakistan to date.

Previous series could be described as Vietnam era designs made with “traditional”

Pakistani methods. While they have produced some very well made and exotic

patches, most of them still did not look quite like the period made originals. Given the quality of workmanship and the seemingly unending entrepreneurial spirit of Pakistani tailors, one could ask “What would happen if someone gave them very specific details and instructions on what these patches were supposed to look like?” That question is answered by this very believable series of Pakistani reproductions.


This particular series of patches is especially notable for its choice of designs. Whoever has commissioned this series of reproductions has apparently avoided such cliches such as 1st CAV motto patches and instead focused on rare and esoteric Vietnamese units. In fact, several of these designs are so obscure that they were previously unknown to the author. To add to this, they are being made and sold in small numbers, avoiding the often repeated error of flooding the market.


And the vendor has also avoided the temptation of artificial aging, which often has the opposite effect of making the patches less convincing. These are made specifically to appeal to advanced collectors, and reportedly have succeeded in infiltrating some very well regarded collections. This series proves that with historical research, quality workmanship, and smart marketing, repros can be made that will fool the experts.


Front: A very nicely made reproduction of an ARVN Ranger Recon Team patch.

The embroidery is richly done, and contrary to many other Pakistani made patches, the overall rendering is not “over the top” with fancy material or ornate embroidery. The downfall of this particular patch is the use of a fine weight synthetic for the white base material. Ironically, the patch is backed with a white cotton material that could have been much more convincing. The lettering, the stitching used for the border and “flames” and the black cloth used for the applique panel testify to the

patch being made in Pakistan.


Back: This shows the use of medium density white cloth used for a layer of backing

material. The backside shows a wealth of reverse threads, almost as dense as

the front of the patch. Also shown are a number of cross threads moving from

one design element to another. Note the back stitching on the threads securing

the black applique section done in a low angled diagonal stitch. The entire back

has been covered with a white glue for additional stiffness and to secure the

threads. Note that this patch is finished with a cut edge: most of the patches in this series actually featured folded edges.



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Based upon common materials and assembly techniques it’s most likely that

these are a more recent series from the same shop that made the Korean Type I

patches previously described. Some of the lettering done with embroidery thread

looks similar, as does the use of stiff clear plastic for pocket hangers and shiny

synthetic base materials. Some of the white gauze backing material also

matched, although few of the Type 2 patches were made with the low-grade

paper used in the previous series.


But aside from the similarities, there is a much heavier reliance on the use of embroidery thread for the main design features, producing a very thickly woven effect. This is the style referred to in the VICN as the “Ohio Rug Weave” (Volume 10, Issue 5). Apparently patches of this type appeared in great numbers in the early 1990’s, and were initially thought to have been made by an American repro artist from the middle part of the country. More likely they were being imported by a dealer in that area, and eventually made their way to large militaria shows hosted in Ohio. French Loop refers to the embroidery style used for the lettering.


It’s striking that this series focused on high dollar Special Forces patches. The examples listed were sold for $50 to $125, mostly on the higher end. These patches represent a serious and well thought out effort to defraud the buyer. Although produced in the late 1980's and early 1990's these still surface from time to time on eBay, and also when old collections are brought out for sale.


Below: Copy of an MLT-2 patch rendered with a medium weight embroidery thread

on a black cotton base cloth. The cut edge is finished with a sewing machine stitched

border. Note the uneven lettering. The eyes should be more pointed and sinister,

and the beret should have a more defined shape. The design should end with the red

outer border, and should not have a black outline. The skull should be outlined and

separated from the background color below it.



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Until recently Vietnam era USAF patches were rarely addressed by reproduction artists. This series provides a virtual Air Order of Battle of Vietnam era

tactical units. It also includes an random and sometimes odd selection of US Army Air Force and USN patches from World War II, as well as USAF and USN patches from the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Just to make the mix even more interesting the same vendor also offers a number of Philippine and South East Asian base souvenir patches.


Some designs are more credible than others. This series does a fair job of replicating patches that were originally produced by machine. But many of the

details are overlooked, giving the patches a somewhat bland appearance. Despite this these are generally being sold for between $5 and $10, with the most avid buyers appearing to be unit veterans.


Below is a copy of a US Naval Forces Vietnam patch. It features the partially

embroidered background stitch common to many of the patches in this series. This is even more visible when looking at the backside of the patch. The stitches seem to be over a white sizing material. Overall the patch is rather stiff.


As for the design, many of the original patches had the central “MACV with Anchor”

accomplished with an applique piece. Also the background on the originals was not fully embroidered. Keep in mind that thread was actually more expensive than cloth for most tailors during the Vietnam war. Note that the shield is off center with the rest of the patch.


The lettering is fairly well spaced, and the “Vietnam” imitates the elongated styling of the original. But the stars should be much bolder. Also the lower edge of the shield should not be rounded, but rather come to a point.



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The comment was made on another thread that once you have seen enough Vietnam era patches, you can recognize the fakes. Here is a favorite example of mine. The post Vietnam Korean sewing machine made version is on the left, the Vietnamese hand embroidered version is on the right. (Sorry I don't have this one in color.)


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These patches are very well made, and are obviously the work of a professional shop. Some of them were very convincing when presented on their own. But other pieces, which had identical thread, materials, and construction techniques

were less credible, especially when compared to original items. The design details of these others are very poor, especially on the aviation unit patches.

The consistent use of synthetic materials also betrays the more recent origins of these patches.


All of these were made on a hand guided sewing machine, some with applique work. While some of these were strictly Vietnam designs, others may have been in fact made for Aviation units that rotated back to Korea after the war.


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This series is less ornate than other Pakistani made patches, using more basic materials such as cotton, wool, and cotton thread. Most of the patches seen in this series have been severely aged in attempt to hide their recent manufacture. Despite all this apparent "wear" there are no stitch marks to indicate the item was ever actually sewn onto a uniform.


Shown her is a copy of a 502nd ABN Strike Force

patch. While using a simple base material,

the patch features the easily spotted “rope”

embroidery thread used for the lines of the

parachute. The broader portions of the

design show long parallel stitches common to

Pakistani hand embroidery.

The back side of this patch features a layer of

cotton mesh dyed black that would also

match patches from Pakistan, as well as the

trademark long cross over stitch connecting

threads of similar color on different parts of

the design. Note the high degree of aging,

despite the fact that the patch has never been

sewn or worn.



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This series is attributed to a tailor shop apparently still functioning

outside of the former USAF/RTAF base at Ubon. The most distinguishing feature of these patches is a stiff white cloth backing that covers the reverse threads (although this has been stripped off of some examples). This same technique was used on patches made during the war, which makes sorting out the post war copies a



A key identifying feature of these patches is that they look brand spanking new. Even

unused patches tend to age over time and from handling, especially with a bright white backing. This, and the fact that some of the minor design details appear to have changed or been lost from the wartime designs give some warning to the customer that these are not vintage items.

An even clearer caution comes from the patches showing postwar AC-130 H model gunships.


These patches are colorful and striking, making them both attractive and very convincing to the collector. Some of the patches observed from this series may well be left over stock from the wartime period, or even rejects as some of the examples appeared to be flawed or incomplete. These maybe of value to some collectors, but one has to question exactly what are they getting, and at what price.



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Another set of patches from the Thailand Type 1 Ubon White Back series...


When comparing two patches to determine if they came from a common source, it

is often helpful to rotate them until the thread directions match. Although difficult to see inthis illustration, the threads in the black portion of the Tam Sat recon patch alignthemselves very nicely with the black threads in the body of the AC-130H. In fact, thematch is so close that under magnification they almost look like a continuous stitch!


suggests common thread width and texture as well as sewing technique. These two are soclose it is very likely they were made by the same hand or process. However, this could be completely missed if these were compared side by side in their normal orientation.


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At first it was thought to be part of a different

series because of the "black" cloth backing.

But when closely examined, the black

coloring has been painted on to the white cloth

typically used in this series, or possibly

done with a marker pen. Perhaps it was to

give the patch a more “Army” appearance.


The tank is supposed to be an M-551

Sheridan, but the resulting design looks

more like a Panzer Mk. III mixed with a

Soviet T-54. Note that the rear sprocket is

outside of the alignment of the tread, a detail

that no armor soldier would tolerate. The

distinctive reversed angle of the Sheridan

turret is also missing.

The back view of this patch shows a typical

Thai sewing machine stitch very nicely. The

lettering is done with synthetic thread.


TIP TO COLLECTORS: If you pick up a repro for your own reference, keep such things a price tags. They can be one more item that can be used to trace the true origin of the reproduction. Dealers who are producing these things tend to sell them in batches, and this might help you recognize another one!



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The meaning of “large” will become obvious

once the reader has actually seen one of these

patches. They are huge! Typically they measure

between 6 and 9 inches in length. Looking

like something more typically found on a high

school letter jacket, these are far too big for

wear as a pocket patch. These patches were

initially spotted on the market in 2001, with a

later batch available in 2002.


As for technique, these appear to be a cross

between Pakistani and Thai made patches.

The embroidery thread used for the main

design is very thin much like Thai patches, but

woven very thickly to produce a “padded” effect.


Below 1: A very large and impressive imitation 361st AVN DET patch from this series on the left, and a Vietnamese period made version on the right. The Indian made patch uses a two piece applique of chord cotton material, with a mesh backing. It is finished with a sewn border cropped with a cut edge. The central wing is done with dense parallel stitched hand embroidery. The blue elements are done in a light blue thread on the repro.


Notice the “capped” or serif letters lettering used for “AVN-DET-DIV”. In contrast the Vietnamese made version is partially embroidered on a single piece of cloth with a folded edge. Note that the red outer section is fully embroidered, and that the blue thread is a darker shade. Notice that “Viet-Nam” is much more stylized in the original version.


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India Type 1: Army Aviation Large


Below 2: Compare and contrast photo of a Vietnamese made original 187th AVN Rat

Pack pocket hanger and an Indian made reproduction. The original features a very nasty looking rodent with its back up and armed to the teeth with a rocket pod and Gattling gun. The imitation has had it’s gunbursts transformed into flowers! The central figure has been changed into something just downright bizarre. It almost looks as if the ears were misinterpreted as the eyes on some large skull faced creature. Also note the lighter colored background material on the original, as well as the details of the gun and individual spent shell casings.


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These were observed coming out of the

Philippines in 2005, along with the claim

that they were “recently discovered old

stock.” The broad machine weave on

these has been seen on previously seen

post war patches from the Philippines, and

the threads look very similar to those used

for the Philippine Type 2 patches.

A distinguishing characteristic of these

patches is the very wide stitch used for

the background of the design, which

measures approximately 10 mm. It is

rather loose as well, showing in distinctive

rows of thread both on the front and back

of the patch.

The majority of the patches from this vendor

are for WWII USAAF and Korea era USAF

squadrons. So far, only a handful have been

observed for Vietnam era units. The same

vendor also features sports team and Boy

Scout patches.


Below: A Philippine made USN Vietnam Patrol patch and a war time original. These

patches had varying dates and ship profiles. Notice the difference in the size of the lettering and the map details. The Philippine made patches have a very closely cut edge, which almost appears to be a rolled edge.


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These patches appear to have been made

for legitimate wear as “combat patches”

worn by veterans on the right shoulder of

their uniform to signify combat experience

with that unit. Such patches were commonly

made by shops near US bases in

Korea. They began to appear in Southern

US militaria shows around 1991. Although

deliberately presented as “in country” or

period made, the give away was the inclusion

of the MEDDAC insignia, which did

not come into use until after the war.


Below 1) A rather convincing 11th ACR done on post war synthetic OD fatigue cloth.

There are key details missing such as the left rear leg. Some of these were

embellished with rather prominent and obscene male organs. This patch was

backed with a layer of fuzzy white sizing material as well as Korean language newsprint. Note the top part of the shield slopes upward.


Below 2) In contrast, a farily well rendered eagle and shield from a 101st patch. The

main design is outlined with additional stitching. The beak seems a bit large.



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Below: A rather poor copy of the MEDDAC patch, which was not in use until well after the Vietnam War. This was the biggest clue, along with the use of synthetic materials that the patches were not period made. The patch is misshapen, the central design is off center, and the border threads are fraying. Add to that, the base cloth has a seam across it. This could very well be a tailor shop reject. Note the Korean language newsprint used for backing.



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These patches were believed to have been made on behalf of an experienced collector who was serving in Korea after two tours inVietnam. These were made by the proverbial “shop outside the gate” in Seoul. These patches are well made and show a high degree of craftsmanship. They were sold in the collectors’s market during the 1980’s. The RT patches were very likely copied from period made originals.


Below: A reproduction RT California known to have been made in Korea in the 1980’s. The base material is synthetic, while the thread looks to be a cotton/synthetic blend. Note that the blue center section is fully embroidered. Trace guidelines for the lettering can be seen right behind the word“California”. The embroidery for the border stitch is very flat.


On the back: Common to Korean made patches is the use of white sizing material or “fuzzy white stuff” for backing material. Sometimes it looks a bit tacky, but notice in this example the white sizing material that has been pressed and neatly cut. Note the white reverse threads and how neatly the edge has been cut. This is quality workmanship.



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An interesting 1st CAV reproduction. The patch itself is stiff as a

board and can literally be held sideways without having it fold over. Its base is

densely woven with a thin gold synthetic thread. The additional design details are

embroidered on top of this. Notice how the lettering is very squared off. The

crossband and horse profile are fully embroidered with a vertical matching

stitch, and then outlined in a very narrow border stitch. The outer border is a very

flat stitch. Whether by design or by accident, the outer border is a nice match

for the OD color used during the 1950’s. The backside is covered by white fuzzy

sizing material and all reverse threads are white. The horse profile is a bit close

to the crossband.


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In addition to the larger series of patches, there were a number of individual patches that appeared in small number. This one offers a nice contrast between Vietnam made and Korean made.


Below: Compare and contrast photos of a post war Korean made 1/9 CAV SCOUT patch and a period made Vietnamese HUNTER patch. Both were made by using a hand guided sewing machine and look very similar. However, notice the slightly richer details of the Vietnamese made patch especially the crossed swords.



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Korean Made 1/9 CAV comparison, continued:


As seen below, while the front is interesting, experienced patch collectors will always look at the backside of a patch for clues about its origin. The “fuzzy white stuff” sizing material on the left is a common identifier of Korean made patches. The Vietnamese made patch uses newsprint.


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